Staff and Board
Get to know our staff at Decoda. Here we have photos, bios and personal philosophies of each team member. They’re a great group with a passion for literacy and learning.
Sandra has a Masters degree in Library Science and has enjoyed 25 years in literacy programs and information management – from children’s librarianship to managing a library education program at the post-secondary level. She taught at the University of Hong Kong and conducted research in adult learning and information literacy. At the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, she chaired the Library technician program and Journalism program — a busy leadership role that allowed her to realize her passion and commitment to supporting learners.
Fanny is a chartered accountant with over 20 years of experience. Prior to Decoda, she worked at PricewaterhouseCooper as an audit manager, working with a variety of clients, including many non-profit organizations. She joined Decoda because she believes literacy can change people’s lives. Usually busy raising two girls, Fanny finds time to volunteer around the Vancouver area.
Gail joined Decoda with more than 20 years of experience as a professional fundraiser. Prior to Decoda, she worked with Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and the BC SPCA. Gail provides fundraising expertise in direct mail, online giving, major gifts, foundation grants, monthly and planned giving. She believes literacy is a fundamental human right and the key to reducing poverty.
Heather brings decades of experience in training, government relations and community outreach to Decoda. Educated as a biologist, Heather created science programs for adult learners at UBC Continuing Studies. Following that, she worked for the BC Government to bring training programs to forest workers and Indigenous communities. Eventually her career path took her into public service. After five terms in office, including years as a Vancouver public library trustee, she is thrilled to join the Decoda team.
Aliza brings a range of expertise to Decoda, including non-formal education, early learning, community development, volunteer management, research and journalism. Previously, she worked in Nepal for UNESCO implementing various projects on adult literacy, gender equality and early childhood education. She has worked with DIVERSEcity, ECEBC and Lions Clubs International, and is a recipient of the Excellence Award of Appreciation for commendable leadership and community service.
Maureen has worked as a literacy advocate for many years. She was involved in community development and partnership building through her work as a literacy outreach coordinator and in pilot programs for adult learning and ESL in the Fraser Cascade region. Her background in health and employment services has provided the context for teaching and gaining experience in a variety of environments. She feels she is most in her element when she is out in the elements.
Lea has worked in the information field for over ten years. Prior to Decoda, Lea worked as the librarian & archivist at a local museum. She holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from UBC and has a background in history and archaeology. Lea is passionate about helping people find the information they need and interpret it in a clear and concise way. She believes in removing literacy barriers so people can pursue their dreams.
Jade joined Decoda with over ten years of experience in education, including teaching and curriculum planning for students from kindergarten to adults. Previously, Jade worked at Sylvan as a Centre Director. She holds degrees in Linguistics and Education. Jade is a passionate educator who believes that literacy is a key to opening doors for people so they can have better job opportunities, better health and a better life overall. On weekends, Jade is either painting or enjoying outdoor activities with her dog.
Trish manages Decoda’s social media platforms, writes impact stories for the website and contributes to The Westcoast Reader newspaper. She has 25 years’ experience writing, editing, marketing and media planning for corporate, retail, non-profit, municipal organizations and newspapers. She was also a literacy outreach coordinator for North Vancouver Island communities.
Christie has a background in fundraising and information management. She understands the importance of non-profits’ ability to report on complex datasets in a way that is meaningful for all stakeholders. Christie always has a volunteer gig going on the side. In fact, before becoming an employee at Decoda, she was a volunteer. She is honoured to be a part of a team engaged in working towards a BC where everyone has the literacy skills they need.
Natasha joined the Decoda team with over 10 years of non-profit experience. Prior to Decoda, Natasha worked with Coast Mental Health, Frontier College and Lu’ma Native Housing Society. At Frontier College, she witnessed how literacy combined with a safe space can foster community and confidence amongst youth. When not working, Natasha can be found chasing her active toddler around one of the city’s playgrounds. Natasha believes literacy is a building block to success in life and is thrilled to be working with Decoda.
Avni moved to Canada from India in 2018 to pursue her undergraduate degree. She is currently taking a gap year to save up and go back to school for her final year. Avni spends much of her time volunteering and currently volunteers at Literacy Now Burnaby with the Burnaby Neighbourhood House. She enjoys outdoor activities including rock climbing, paddle boarding and swimming. Avni strongly believes literacy is the most fundamental skill for an individual and is so happy to be a part of a team that works towards making it accessible.
Board of Directors
Our Board of Directors is a distinguished group of leaders whose commitment and strategic decision-making have made an impact in communities across British Columbia. The dedication, commitment and wisdom they bring to Decoda not only guides our work, but reflects our values. We are proud to work with such a knowledgeable and generous group of individuals.
Valerie Overgaard retired from the Vancouver School District after two decades in the District Office. Her last position, which she held for much of that time, was Associate Superintendent responsible for programs. Valerie’s career spanned 38 years, and included teaching positions in public schools, administrative and teaching roles at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, and working in curriculum for the Ministry of Education. A highlight in Valerie’s career was her position as senior researcher on the Royal Commission on Education. She completed degrees in all three of BC’s major universities: BEd from UBC, MA from UVic, and PhD from SFU. Literacy has been an interest for much of her time as an educator and she has been involved with organizations supporting literacy since her retirement.
Grace Kuo brings diverse financial experience to the Decoda Board. She began her career with KPMG, and eventually became an audit manager there, while obtaining her designation as a chartered accountant (CA). She then gained experience in the financial industry, working for Leith Wheeler Investment Council, where she was a manager of mutual funds, and then transitioned to Canfor, where she currently holds the title of Director, Treasury. Grace enjoys the educational side of finance and accounting, where she assisted students to obtain their accounting designations at Simon Fraser University and Langara College.
Manmeet brings nearly 25 years of experience in the financial services industry to Decoda. He has held various executive and senior leadership positions during his career, including Head of Private Wealth for Franklin Templeton Canada and Chief Investment Officer for Qtrade Financial Group. Manmeet has earned several industry designations, including Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and CFA Certificate in ESG Investing among others. He’s a graduate of the I.H. Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba (Bachelor of Commerce).
In 1981, Pat began her teaching career as a CUSO volunteer in rural Nigeria. Later, Pat became a reading specialist and coordinated an urban adult literacy program. In 1996, Pat co-founded Grass Roots Press, with the dream of creating a collection of books for adults with low-literacy skills. She experienced a steep learning curve as she transitioned from the world of education, where she had earned a doctorate degree, to the business of publishing. During the past two decades, Pat has engaged in several research and development projects in the areas of health, reading, and assessment. She is the author of Teaching Reading to Adults: A Balanced Approach, which was based on a large-scale SSHRC study. In 2012, Nunavut College approached Pat to create their intake assessment based on her experience developing the Canadian Adult Reading Assessment and the Diagnostic Adult Literacy Assessment for Beginning Readers. Recently, Pat completed a seven-year term on the Salt Spring Literacy board.
Since 2012, Leslie has led a unique role at BC Cancer Foundation as Director Corporate Governance. Prior to that, educational advancement was the focus of her career at the UBC Alumni Association for more than 10 years, the last two leading the not for profit as executive director. Since then, she joined a consortium of educational advancement professionals. She served on the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education National Board for four years as Professional Development Chair. In 2014, she successfully attracted the national award for best Corporate Governance by the Governance Professionals Association, which recognized the excellence in organizational leadership and the highest of standards for the BC Cancer Foundation. Currently, she also serves on the Vancouver Foundation’s North Shore Resident Advisory Committee, which provides grants to support projects to enrich communities and build neighbourhoods that respect and celebrate diversity.
In the two decades since completing his PhD, Ralf has been involved in many fascinating projects and in universities in three countries: the UK, the US and Canada. Some of the highlights include an EU-funded study of vocational adult education across Europe, managing a massive skills survey in Scotland for the Scottish Government and a large scale exploration of educational aspirations in deprived areas of the UK. Currently, Ralf is Dean, Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. One of his favourite things to do is write books. He has two single-authored books out so far, and is hoping for more in the near future!
Diana has worked in adult literacy since 1993. She helps businesses, government departments and community groups create successful training programs and a vision for sustainability by examining approaches to workplace learning and engaging in research and literacy reviews. Diana has been the Director of Literacy Development at Literacy BC; Director, Adult and Workplace Learning at Decoda; and is currently chair of the Community Development and Outreach department at Capilano University.